“Do not keep on babbling like the pagan…they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7)

It’s true, Jesus said that. It’s also true that this often gets taught or caught (?) in a confusing mess in-between our ears.

On one hand we are taught to imitate the widow who “kept bothering the unjust judge”, (Luke 18:1-8) understanding God wanted us to “always pray and not give up” because He was so unlike the unjust judge and rather, a just and good Judge.

On the other hand, we are supposed to take care, not to be “repetitive” or use many words, etc.

Confused yet? I know I was. Instead of being en-couraged to pray, especially to persevere in earnest prayer, I believe a lot of us have often been left in a place of confusion. Even beautiful words need clarified for us sometimes.

I appreciate author John Eldridge for attempting to bring clarity to this on a broad level, here’s a quote from him; “…many Christians have gotten the idea that repetition is unnecessary, maybe even wrong…(but) The issue he (Jesus) was addressing was not repetition; the issue was motive (Jesus had been teaching all about motive just before he taught this.)”

Important distinction right?

Check this out, here’s a few examples from the same chapter where we can see Jesus really was addressing a lot on the subject of motives in the heart affecting our actions:

Matthew 6:1: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them…”

Verse 6: “…when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray…that they may be seen by others…”

Verse 16: “…when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others…”

Verse 23: “…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If we hear Jesus’ words in this light, we might just release a little (or big) load off our shoulders we hadn’t fully thought through or known how to think through carrying around. Here’s a few more thoughts to add to the relief:

-Biblical examples of prayer are full of repetition, even Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, where he prayed again and again, “My father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; …not as I will but as you will.” (Jesus said the same thing three times, Matt.26)

The Psalms are full to bursting with repetition. Psalm 136 alone repeats the line, “His love endures forever” twenty-six times!

The daily prayers in the synagogue that the prophets, disciples and Jesus were all a part of were also very repetitive. These are not the “pagans” being spoken of, these are our examples.

-I love the story of Elijah and how James tells us about him:

“The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.”

Even better is going back and reading this story of Elijah play out in 1 Kings. We can read there how he proclaimed the rain coming before there was a cloud in the sky and how he prayed (with his head between his knees) and checked again SEVEN times before there was a tiny cloud “the size of a man’s fist” on the horizon! Seven times sound repetitive and fervent and earnest to me.

-There are many more examples like this, it’s almost enough to make you think God might like repetition. I mean, there’s a few other things like that in the world come to think of it… sunrise, sunset, re-newed moon, re-newed months, re-newed seasons and years, waves crashing.

If we look a little below the surface, there’s more to it than repetition. What I mean is, the picture can lead us to something deeper. Maybe it’s a whisper that He is looking for humble hearts, because those are the ones who admit the truth of thirst, hunger or any other need, as many times as needed. From the cry of our hearts to our long list of practical needs, we are invited to come boldly, not hesitating and wondering if we are saying the right thing or the wrong number of times.

If we are thirsty, hungry or weary, we are invited to come, repeaters and all.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.’ ” (Ps.91)

He IS looking for wounded hearts that know we need Him and the whole world needs Him, because He’s the only One who can save, not a political party or nominee or anything else. He is looking for the people who aren’t afraid to say it today and tomorrow too. Be courageous and repeat yourself today.

Repeating myself with you,

Raynna, for the whole family
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